By DAVID STRINGER
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
May 10, 2006
LONDON -- A British court recommended Wednesday that a man be
extradited to the United States to face charges in the largest attack
on U.S. government computer networks - including Army, Air Force, Navy
and NASA systems.
Gary McKinnon, 40, of London has been indicted in New Jersey and
Virginia for allegedly hacking into U.S. government computers between
February 2001 and March 2002. He was arrested in 2002 and has fought
his extradition by claiming he could face prosecution under U.S.
"My intention was never to disrupt security. The fact that I logged on
and there were no passwords means that there was no security,"
McKinnon said, outside the hearing at London's Bow Street Magistrates
Court. "I was looking for UFOs."
Court records in Virginia said McKinnon caused $900,000 in damage to
computers, including those of private companies, in 14 states.
In New Jersey, he is accused of hacking into a network of 300
computers at the Earle Naval Weapons Station in Colts Neck, N.J., and
stealing 950 passwords.
The break-in - which occurred immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks - shut down the whole system for a week, Judge
Nicholas Evans said. The station is responsible for replenishing the
Atlantic fleet's munitions and supplies.
Though McKinnon was able to view sensitive details about naval
munitions and shipbuilding on the secure U.S. systems, he did not
access classified information, an investigation found.
British Home Secretary John Reid will make the final decision on
extradition. If he approves it, McKinnon will appeal to the High
Court, his lawyer Karen Todner said.
Edward Lawson, another attorney for McKinnon, told an earlier hearing
that his client feared prosecution by a U.S. military commission under
powers introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But the judge said there was no "real, as opposed to fanciful, risk"
of McKinnon being prosecuted under anti-terror laws, asking the
suspect to accept an assurance provided by the U.S. Department of
He told McKinnon that in choosing to target the United States he had
"run the risk of being prosecuted in that country."
Officials in New Jersey and Virginia would have to decide where
McKinnon should stand trial. If convicted of the charges in New
Jersey, McKinnon faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal
prison and a $250,000 fine.
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